I recently joined Temple University School of Medicine as faculty in the section of Interventional Cardiology after completing an advanced interventional cardiology fellowship at Prairie Heart Institute. I did my interventional cardiology training at Temple and now coming back to Temple after a “Prairie Year” is like a home-coming for me. I have been here at Temple as an attending for 4 weeks now, and I am myself amazed at how comfortable I feel with starting an interventional cardiology career. Numerous folks at Temple have complemented me on my interventional skills. I know it is because of my training at Prairie.

The Advanced Heart and Vascular Fellowship at Prairie is truly a remarkable experience and a unique multidisciplinary program at one of the highest volume interventional programs nationwide, led by Drs. Jeffrey Goldstein, Nilesh Goswami and Gregory Mishkel. Given its’ large catchment area in central and southern Illinois, Prairie fellow is exposed to an incredible volume and variety of endovascular, complex coronary and structural heart interventions. As a Prairie full-year fellow, I participated in over 1200 interventional cases and worked closely with a team of over 20 faculty members with varied skill sets ranging from structural heart interventions, advanced imaging, endovascular specialists, vascular medicine specialists, chronic total occlusion specialists, cardiothoracic surgeons and vascular surgeons. The friendly and collegial nature of the faculty (Drs. Goldstein, Goswami, Hall, Khurana, Scherzel, Issa, Nandish, Pacheco, Dukkipati, Mishkel and Rocha-Singh) is most conducive to stress-free learning.
I was amazed by how invested they were in my education and how “hands-on” it was from the very first day. Honestly, these guys are so good, they make the most complex interventional stuff look so easy and straightforward. My first couple of months at Prairie, I felt “Oh this stuff is easy” only to later realize it was the true class of the operator that made me feel that way. It is a “Master-Class” in every sense. You learn “what to do”, “when to do” and most importantly “when to stop” and always keep “your patients safety and interest first over everything else”. You will master “situational trouble shooting”, “thinking outside the box” and most importantly, getting everything done in an efficient timely manner.

I have never been around better and more invested group of teachers my entire career. Everything is evidence based, and very thoughtful, more so than any other program I have worked at previously. Midway into my year, I was independently performing complex procedures like EVAR, TAVR, Carotid stents with ease and confidence. I was myself amazed with the comfort level I was able to achieve in such a short time at Prairie. In addition, the lab staff is very knowledgeable, friendly and supportive of the fellowship adding to the positive experience. Overall, it is an extraordinary training experience. You will come out highly refined, confident and will be drafted in to a different league of Interventional Cardiologists after a Prairie Fellowship. Decision to spend any time at Prairie, learning from these master operators and clinicians will only help you in your career. I know it positioned me very well to succeed in my career.

There are plenty of opportunities for research and scholarly work. You can literally have a case report to write every week if you are interested. After a few months you will realize a case report for most is just another case at Prairie. There are also numerous ongoing trials at Prairie Education and Research Cooperative, from myocardial stem cell injections, new upcoming endovascular devices to the newest TAVR valves. I was also able to work with the performance improvement team on research projects and angiographic core lab related activities.

I feel my decision to spend another year training at Prairie paid off big time and turned out to be the the best career move I have ever made. I will continue to lean on my mentors at Prairie for advise and guidance over the years. I am extremely thankful for all the education and training I received during my Prairie Fellowship. Overall, I came to Prairie with great expectations and the program still exceeded all my expectations. It is truly a program to seek for: those wanting to take that next step from “good to great” in their careers. It is never too early and never too late to learn from the “Prairie Master Class”.

Vikas Agarwal, M.D.

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